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Kogod in Practice Consultants Help AU Alum and Small Business Owner Grow Client Base

Kogod School of Business student consultants provide valuable support while gaining hands-on experience.



For the parents of most students, Family Weekend is about experiencing all that AU has to offer, from attending top-notch programming to spending time together on the quad. 

But last fall, as alum and current AU parent Alan Gellman, CAS ‘86, visited his daughter, Olivia Gellman ‘25 on campus, he stumbled upon an opportunity. 

During his visit, Gellman learned about Kogod in Practice, the on-campus consultancy that pairs students with various sized businesses across the US and overseas. 

As part of the unique, hands-on arrangement, students provide real-life consulting in an arrangement that simultaneously provides experiential learning opportunities for the student, and pro bono support for the client. 

It dawned on Gellman: his own business might be a perfect fit for the program. 

Back home in Arizona, he serves as CEO of Wall Sensations, the small business he founded after moving in 2004 from the East Coast to Scottsdale—known for its desert scenery.  

“I realized all the subdivisions in my new neighborhood were separated by these concrete walls, which is probably the most incarcerating feeling one could have,” Gellman recalled.  

“Coming from the East Coast with these rolling hills, lush gardens, and the like, it was a very hard transition,” he said. 

Wall Sensations solves that problem for homeowners by adorning properties with tasteful and decorative murals, sprucing up otherwise plain walls and surfaces. 

More recently, though, Gellman has hoped to grow his customer base. 

Enter Kogod in Practice. 

This past spring, a team of five student consultants from Kogod took Wall Sensations on as a pro bono client. 

Working with the company over three months, the Kogod team helped Wall Sensations sharpen its marketing and customer acquisition strategies. Eighty-five percent of the company’s existing customers, the team found, came from the residential sector.  

As such, the student consultants recommended Gellman expand the company’s reach, scaling up its business-to-business marketing efforts to attract the likes of restaurant management companies, hotels, hospital construction firms, and real estate developers.  

The support paid off, with Wall Sensations expanding into new markets and growing its client base. 

These student consultants were incredibly creative and really helped us streamline some of the deficiencies we’ve had."


Alan Gellman

CEO, Wall Sensations

The valuable experience cut both ways. 

For the team of student consultants, it was an authentic opportunity to provide true hands-on consulting; evaluating a company’s strengths and opportunities amid their coursework. 

“We all grew by exchanging fresh ideas,” said Nazeh Elmahdawi ‘23, a Kogod MBA student who served as a student consultant. 

Seeing, up close, how an entrepreneur operates on a day-to-day basis proved valuable, added Cesar Gonzales ‘23, another Kogod In Practice team member. 

“That ‘go-getter’ attitude and hunger you need to have in business was something I enjoyed seeing in such an experienced business owner like Alan,” Gonzales said. 

Indeed, Kogod in Practice has deployed its mutually beneficial strategy to a wide range of industries. In the past, the program has paired student consultants with a diverse array of sectors, from a hydroelectric retrofitting company to a student loan debt relief group, a foreign travel hospitality service, and many more. 

In fact, just as these five students worked with Wall Sensations, five other teams advised their own clients last spring alone. 

That the program, in helping clients, also provides students a chance to deepen their own consulting experience is what makes it most rewarding, said Angela Petras, Kogod Assistant Dean for Experiential Learning, who leads the Kogod In Practice program. 

“I regularly receive unprompted testimonials from students who reach out just to let me know how these projects positively impacted their lives and trajectories,” Petras said. “The proof is in the students’ heartfelt feedback.”

As for Gellman, it’s safe to say his business was well served by the Kogod team. 

“Honestly,” he said, “I would have hired half of that team right out of the gate.”